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Votes

Black and Poisson: Poised to Debate

David Poisson announces bid to unseat Del. Richard Black.

David E. Poisson has thrown the first barbs in his bid to unseat Del. Richard Black (R-32).

“He’s a show horse and I’m a work horse,” said Poisson, a Democrat who moved to Cascades in 1995. “Mr. Black is focused on drawing attention to himself. I am focused on results.”

He attacked Black’s effectiveness, saying the delegate has even lost support from members of his own party because of his excessive views on homosexuality, abortion and similar issues. “The issues are off putting enough,” he said.

BOTH CANDIDATES are lawyers. Black has represented the 32nd District for eight years.

Poisson criticized Black’s involvement in a Stone Bridge High School play exploring homosexual issues. “We have a lot of people who have become self-styled judges and juries about everything that is immoral and moral,” he said. “I don’t think it’s Black’s place to tell the school what to do.”

“Offsides” featured a scene in which two male students gave the appearance of kissing one another.

Black issued an e-mail to his constituents, objecting to what he perceived as the promotion of a deviant sexual lifestyle.

“A faked kiss between two boys he didn’t even see,” Poisson said, shaking his head, in a gesture of disbelief. Poisson, in announcing his candidacy Feb. 25, said, “We don’t need a delegate lecturing us on the difference between right and wrong. We need a delegate who, when things in Loudoun are wrong, is busy in Richmond making them right.”

Another issue that separates Poisson and Black is adoption by same-sex couples. Black introduced a bill, which failed, that would outlaw such adoptions. He said allowing gay adoption rights is “terribly wrong.”

“The first homosexual I ever met attempted to abduct me and a friend when we were out snake hunting,” he said. “If I had not fought, I’d probably be resting in the Florida everglades instead of talking to you today.”

POISSON, PRESIDENT of Jenkins Hill Partners, lobbies for Servicemaster Corp., Terminix, True Green, American Home Inspection Association and other clients in state legislatures from New York to California. He also is a lawyer with Howe, Anderson & Steyer in Washington, D.C.

He is not a newcomer to politics. Poisson was a candidate for the Board of Supervisors in the Potomac District in 2003. Countryside resident Afeef Syeed, however, garnered the party nomination. “I was asked to run at the last minute. I told the then-chairman of the party I would be out of town on business on the day of the caucus,” Poisson said. “He said he didn’t think anyone would challenge me. Obviously, he was wrong.”

Poisson said it was an important lesson. “I’m glad I learned it in that race instead of this one,” he added.

He also served as chief of staff and counsel to then representative, now Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois from 1988 to 1990. He also was legislative director and chief counsel to the late U.S. Sen. Terry Sanford, whose campaign he ran in 1986.

He has taught business law at Old Dominion University in Sterling. He used personal and vacation time to serve as a substitute teacher in Loudoun six years ago. “I had a child in the public schools — still do — and wanted to know more about what was going on,” he said.

Poisson is a member of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce and has served on the Transient Occupancy Tax Committee of the Loudoun County Convention and Visitors Association. He and Laura, his wife of 15 years, and their daughter, Kate, attend St. David’s Episcopal Church in Ashburn. He is a lay reader and has taught Sunday school.

Black said Poisson is lacking community involvement in Loudoun County. “I had not heard of him until he ran for office,” Black said. “He is invisible in the county.”

POISSON CITED transportation, education and jobs as the key campaign issues. “What is the job creation strategy going to be in the future?” he asked. “There is little to no chance jobs are going to move north to south. We need to plan for when we lose six-figure salaries,” he said.

He said Loudoun must provide first-rate schools, great universities, an efficient transportation system and clean, healthy environment to attract and retain businesses. “Business will go where it is welcome and will stay where it is rewarded,” he said.

He is scheduling “work days” during his campaign, working in individual Loudoun businesses to better understand the needs of employers, their workers and their customers. His first job was at the Loudoun Early Head Start Program in Sterling.

Poisson said he places “primary importance” on education. He expressed concern about a huge exodus of teachers from Loudoun’s public schools when they retire in less than 10 years. “How do you get teachers to remain? Many leave within the first five years,” he said. “I would encourage experienced teachers to stay … by giving them more authority to run the schools and recruit and train their colleagues.”

Black, however, applauded Loudoun’s retention rate. “We have roughly a 99 percent retention rate among our teachers.”

The retention rate actually is 92 percent, according to Loudoun administrators.

Poisson recommended providing higher salaries for people who teach subjects in the critical shortage areas, such as technology and special education.

Black gave Loudoun’s education system high marks. “How do you measure effectiveness? Let’s look at the public schools. Every one of our schools is meeting the SOLS (Standards of Learning)."

Black said he supports school choice and providing a tax credit of $2,500 for students who are privately or home schooled.

Poisson also favors school choice, but he opposes tuition tax credits. “They would only worsen the already severe tax burden Loudouners currently have to bear to support public schools.”

Poisson would like to increase the state’s contribution to colleges and universities, which has been declining in recent years. He cited several ways to help the college system, including creating an online university rather than spending “scarce dollars on bricks and motors.”

He criticized Black’s lack of attention to educational issues. “Last year, he only sponsored one bill on education,” he said.

BLACK, a member of the House Education, Transportation, Courts of Justice and the Privileges and Elections, said he co-sponsored a number of bills, such as legislation dealing with college and university textbook sales, tax credits to help children at risk of failing school and prohibiting sale of drugs on or near schools. He has sponsored 19 education-related bills in the past eight years.

“He has made claims he was going to do better on transportation and education,” Black said of his opponent. “We just got the most new funding in 20 years for transportation. I have passed five separate pieces of legislation that permitted us to construct six interchanges on Route 28. … And we put $42.5 million more into the public schools system.

“By what magic would he achieve more? He would be the only Democrat in a legislative delegation of seven Republicans.”

Poisson charged that Black erroneously was taking credit for the interchanges. The recognition actually belongs to former Sen. Charles Waddell, who served the 33rd District.

Poisson charged that Black went back on his word to “not under any circumstances” introduce legislation to increase taxes. “Those roads don’t get built with manna from heaven,” he said. “Some portion of that was paid for through … public funds.”

Black countered, “I have never voted for a tax and I have no intention of doing so.” He said the business owners voted to create their own tax district to fund the Route 28 improvements. Waddell worked on the Route 28 improvements years ago, he said. “Frankly, if it were not the five bills I introduced, that highway construction would not being taking place today.”

Poisson referred to Route 7 as the “largest parking lot in America.”

“We have to look at a way to end-run the congestion. If that means finding another way to get across the river [to Maryland], then that has to be an option we seriously study. I can’t see any alternative to that.”

Light rail and buses are other answers, he said.

Poisson said tolls will help pay for road improvements, but the General Assembly also needs to consider taxes. “Tolls don’t provide the money that taxes do and we have serious infrastructure to deal with,” he said. “However, I don’t agree with starting the discussion by asking what taxes should be raised and by how much.”

Black said the state is building an interchange at the intersection of Route 7 and Ashburn Road and he is working to eliminate two other traffic lights on the road. “I have managed to get the widening of Route 7 on the six-year plan … from Loudoun County to Tysons Corner,” he added.

BLACK ACCUSED his opponent of endorsing tax increases on sales, cigarettes, mortgage financing, electricity, water and gas, authorzing counties to raise their rates for deeds of trusts or mortgages, plus supporting elimination of the senior citizen tax deduction and backing the cap on the repeal of the car tax. Black based his claim on the letter to editor that Poisson wrote last year in support of Gov. Mark Warner’s tax increases, when it turned out the state actually had a surplus.

Poisson denied Black’s claim, “unless Mr. Black’s opposition also means he was against funding for Virginia’s Standards of Quality, against a 3 percent salary increase for teachers, against funding for special needs children, against funding for English as a Second Language and against the almost $7 million Loudoun received as a byproduct of the agreement.

“Like Sen. Mims and Dels. May and Rust, all of whom also represent Loudoun and voted for the agreement, my support reflected my belief in the importance of fiscal responsibility.”